Calf Exercises & Calves Workout Tips To Maximize Development

The calves are a stubborn, difficult muscle group to develop because your genetics play a large role in how they're shaped...and how well they grow. But don't let that be an excuse, because with the right type of training, you can atleast maximize your calves to their genetic potential, which is probably higher than you think.

Yes, it'll take harder, more consistent work to see the fruits of your labor, but the reward is well worth it. Many lifters have under developed calves in relation to the rest of their body, and by putting in the extra effort, you can stand out among the crowd and enjoy a better physique, literally from head to toe.

Keep in mind that you should only specialize on the Calves after you've reached a certain strength level in the major lower body compound exercises and only after you've been training consistently for quite some time...

Quick Tip: The best approach to training your Calves is to include them in a well-structured, total body workout program that scientifically plans all of these things for you: 1) volume, 2) intensity, 3) frequency, 4) progression, 5) exercise selection, 6) periodization & MUCH more...

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Here's an outline of the rest of this page:

1) Introduction of the Calves muscle group
2) Calf exercises
3) Quick training tips
4) Sample Calves workout

Introduction & Basic Anatomy

The biggest muscle in the calf region is the gastrocnemius, comprised mainly of the medial and lateral heads. If you're after that "diamond shape" look, this is the muscle to fully develop.

The main genetic factor that cannot be controlled is your insertion points. A high insertion point indicates a shorter muscle belly, while low indicates a longer one. In general, people with high insertion points can struggle to develop the kind of shape that individuals with low insertion points can achieve. However, regardless of insertion point, the gastrocnemius can be developed to its genetic potential. Its really all about the consistency and frequency of training.

The other major muscle, lying beneath the gastrocnemius, is the soleus. This muscle is visible from the sides of the lower leg. The third muscle in the group is the plantaris, which is a small muscle that originates behind the knee, running the length of the calf and attaching to the achilles tendon. It seems that it may serve a stabilizing function, but thats up to debate.

Calf Exercises

Dumbbell Calf Raise

- Stand with weights in hands.
Feet placed shoulder distance apart.
Raise up on balls of feet.
Return to start position and repeat.

 Seated Calf Raise

- Sit at calf strengthening machine, feet flat on floor.
Place pad on top of knees.
Lift heels off of floor.
Return to start position and repeat.

Single Leg Calf Raise

- Stand with feet shoulder distance apart.
Hold weights in hands.
Bend knee of one leg.
Lift up on ball of foot.
Return to start position and repeat.
Repeat sets with other leg
.

Toe Sled Raise

- Lie on back with balls of feet on toe bar as shown.
Push upward.
Return and repeat.

See More Calves Exercises, Videos & Training Tutorials

Stimulating Growth

The calves are really one tough cookie! They handle a great deal of load on a daily basis and get pounded on every day. Therefore, the frequency & intensity of your workouts will need to be quite high to stimulate growth in that region.

Here are the main guidelines when it comes to making them grow:
- Work each rep through the full range of motion
- stretch between sets
- use short rest periods
- employ supersets and dropsets

Sample Calves Workout

As we mentioned on the top of this page, its better to train your Calves with a well-structured, total body workout program...

But ,if you've been lifting long enough and want to really specialize on the calves, train them 3x a week and at the very minimum twice. Make sure you have energy to put in a full effort each set...don't just train them half-hearted!

Its good to incorporate different type of exercises, straight-leg and bent-leg, within a variety of rep ranges both high and low. Using a combination of high & low rep ranges will allow you to maximize development. Since the calves can take a lot of beating, it is okay to take each set to failure.

Remember to warm up properly so you can minimize the risk of injury. Walking on an incline treadmill for a few minutes usually does the trick.

Here are 2 sample calf workouts that you can start with:

Calf Workout A:

    Standing Calf Raises
    3 x 25, 15, 10 reps
    Donkey Calf Raises
    3 x of 25, 15, 10 reps
    Seated Calf Raise
    3 x 25, 15, 10 reps

Calf Workout B:

    Standing Barbell Calf Raise
    3 x 25, 15, 10 reps
    Calf Press On The Leg Press Machine
    3 x 25, 15, 10 reps
    Barbell Seated Calf Raise
    3 x 25, 15, 10 reps

Remember to keep your rest times low, and for atleast 1 or 2 sets per workout, use a dropset to really burn the calves!

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Lower: Quadriceps | Hamstring | Glutes | Calves | Full Lower